A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul

By John A. Jackson | Go to book overview

16
“Love, Need and Want You”
(1983–2001)

PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL RECORDS, after being cut loose by CBS in 1983, was only a shell of what it once had been. The company's stable of recording artists was depleted and its offices at 309 South Broad Street were shuttered. Philadelphia International was able to keep its profile in the music marketplace by releasing several “best of” albums (by the O'Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, and Lou Rawls) and a handful of compilation albums (Dance Classics, Philly Ballads, et al.). While Gamble and Huff viewed Philadelphia International's neardorman. state as temporary, some fundamental roadblocks stood in the way of any comeback.

Riding the crest of a neo-conservative political coalition wave that swept him into office in 1980, Ronald Reagan (loosely) presided over a federal government intent on gutting America's Great Society antipoverty programs, which disproportionately affected the nation's blacks. Reagan also sharply reduced income taxes for the rich, which hardly affected blacks at all. “Reaganomics, ” as the administration's new economic philosophy was dubbed, was based on the “trickle-down” theory, whereby government benevolence to those at the top of the economic ladder theoretically worked its way through them to those less fortunate. In reality, the 1980s became the decade of greed, where the pursuit of wealth, status, and a good time took precedence. Once again, being black in America took on an added burden. If blacks were involved in the pop music business, as were Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, they had an additional problem. As black music in general continued to suffer from the disco backlash, a new nemesis in the form of the all-music cable channel called the Music Television Network (MTV) appeared.

MTV debuted during the summer of 1981, providing a twenty-fourhou. diet of promotional video clips of artists singing their latest

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